Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Dinner

This year I had the great honor of cooking our Christmas dinner, which is always an adventure when you're trying to squeeze in entertaining family for the holidays. I'll leave it up to my guests to determine how successful I was in all endeavors, but I did enjoy the cooking.

I went back and forth over what to make for a while, and I thought I'd settled on a chateaubriand until I actually tried to find one on Christmas Eve. Poor planning on my part, to be sure. I ended up at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods, and they did, in fact, have a beef tenderloin. For $29.99 a pound. I would have needed about 2 1/2 lbs, so that ended up being prohibitively expensive for me. Fresh Direct, which I usually think of as being convenient and awesome, but expensive, actually has then for $21.99/lb. Food for thought.

What I ended up doing was getting a giant top round roast, which while not nearly as tender, is a more manageable $7.49/lb. Cooked slowly, it can certainly be a tender piece of meat, and I planned on making a similar sauce to go along with it.

The initial inspiration for the chateaubriand was this recipe at Epicurious, and I played with it a bit to end up with the recipe for the roast and the sauce. The end result was pretty different, but the goal was the same - a tasty meat.

Christmas Roast Beef


1 3-4 lb top round roast (mine was 5 1/2 lbs, but I'm a bit of an idiot)
Celery salt
Kosher Salt
Freshly-ground black pepper

1 lb sliced baby portabello mushrooms
4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 cups beef demi-glace
2/3 cup port


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rub the roast down with the celery salt, kosher salt, and black pepper. I'm very liberal with the spices. Insert your meat thermomometer. PLace the roast in a roasting pan or other suitable vessel and cook until the thermometer reads 120 degrees. This will take 20-25 minutes per pound of beef, but I keep a close eye on the thermometer, not the clock.

For the sauce, start by melting the butter along with the mushrooms and rosemary. Mix the contents of a 1.5 oz pack of demi-glace (I use Demi-Glace Gold, which is amazing stuff) into 1 1/2 cups of water and then add to the mushrooms. Once that has simmered a bit, add the port (or a dry red wine).

Once the mushrooms are soft and cooked through and everything is combined, you can remove from the heat and set aside until you're ready to quickly reheat and serve.

The beef and sauce turned out great, and I sliced the leftover meat and have kept it in the fridge marinating in the leftover sauce. I can tell you with all sincerity that this stuff makes the best roast beef sandwiches ever.

We needed some sides to go along, and I ended up making a potatoes gratin along with some kale as well as a quick salad.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
Adapted from this recipe at Epicurious


6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature, divided
2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, rinsed
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
2 cups whole milk
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup whipping cream


Preheat oven to 400°F.* Coat 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter. Thinly slice all potatoes; place in prepared dish. Bring milk and next 5 ingredients to boil in medium saucepan; pour over potatoes. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Cover with foil. Bake until potatoes are tender and milk is almost absorbed, about 50 minutes.

Bring cream to boil in saucepan. Uncover potatoes, pour cream over, and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake uncovered until top is golden brown in spots, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly.

*This was a very poor choice of recipe on my part since I had the oven at 300 for the roast. I felt the roast was more important than the potatoes, so I kept it at 300 and just cooked the potatoes a lot longer. It didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. I think this is a good recipe, but not if you already need the oven set at another temperature. Amateur mistake on my part, there.

Kale with Panfried Walnuts
Adapted from this recipe at Epicurious


3 pounds kale, stems and center ribs discarded
1 cup chopped walnuts (3 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped


Tear kale into large pieces, then cook in a large pot of well-salted boiling water, uncovered, until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain kale, and, when cool enough to handle, press out excess liquid.

Cook walnuts in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add kale and salt and pepper to taste and cook, tossing, until heated through.

Serve kale warm or at room temperature.

The salad was just spring mix with some walnuts, goat cheese, and dried cranberries tossed in along with a quick and basic balsamic vinaigrette. Nothing fancy there.

I hope everyone reading had a safe and happy holiday, and that not all of you feel as fat as me right now.

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